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Sunday, September 27, 2015

The best and worst music festivals in Toronto this summer

summer music festivals torontoThis summer was the season of music festivals in Toronto more than any other, with new arrivals like Bestival and WayHome joining more recent additions to the circuit like Field Trip and TURF. Even Luminato got in on the fun by landing Polish electronic music fest Unsound, which opened up the Hearn to the public with stunning results.

There were some big winners this year, but it wasn't all roses. Weather de-railed day one of Digital Dreams, which left a lot of people disappointed given the short notice provided by organizers. In other cases, there were no disasters, but no true standout moments either.

These are our picks for the best and worst music in Toronto this summer.


Field Trip
Field Trip has managed to improve year over year since it's inception in 2012. If it's possible to have too much to do at a festival, Field Trip is pushing closer. Comedy showcases, vendors, art installations, VR demos, food trucks, a children's stage and fun zone...and yet somewhere in there 30 bands managed to perform on two stages. -- MF

When news broke that Unsound was coming to Toronto and that it would go down at the Hearn, electronic music fans' hearts were aflutter. And it didn't disappoint. Organizers didn't waste the vast potential of the venue with a pitch-perfect lineup that was highlighted (for those who snagged tickets) by Tim Hecker's stunning and immersive Ephemera. More like this please, please, please. -- DF

The PanAm Games organizers went appropriately all-out when it came to a music line-up for a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Roots, Chromeo, Janelle Monae, Flaming Lips, Joel Plaskett, and hundreds more....for free! Always decent sight lines and sound that worked if you were close enough (cut them a little slack...a venue surrounded by buildings is never going to haver perfect sound), Panamania definitely helped buoy the spirits of PanAm haters. -- MF

wayhome festivalWayHome
Being the new (big) kid on the block, critics were ready to hate WayHome. Here's how well it went: after the event, anytime a reviewer could find anything negative to say, it was immediately followed with "but I'm sure they'll fix it next year." I've never heard a festival garner that much goodwill in year one. Believe the hype: it was that good. -- MF

Camp Wavelength
Who could say no to this eclectic line up in this idyllic location? Artscape Gilbraltar Point provided the perfect backdrop for Wavelength to continue the tradition of presenting grassroots events that celebrate community. Sets by Anamai, Moon King, Dirty Frigs, Holy Fuck and Do Make Say Think were summer highlights. Kudos to the tireless efforts of the Wavelength team. -- ESP


Bestival came with a lot of hype, which isn't surprising given its ambitious plans for the Toronto Islands. And it mostly delivered. The costumes were wacky, the non-musical entertainment was above average, and the lineup was solid. It just misses making our best category for lower attendance than expected. This was supposed to be the island party to end island parties. -- DF

Time Festival TorontoTIME
TIME Festival's attempt at appeasing different crowds landed them in a grey area where fans of specific genres were left wondering what to do with themselves during off-sets. Some loved the DJs, some came for the hip-hop, but no one had anything bad to say about the affordable ticket price. Downside: one tap connected to a hose doesn't cut it for water refills for an entire music festival, let alone on one of the hottest days of he summer. -- MF

Setting an attendance record on Saturday, thanks in part to Cake and Wilco, TURF knows the crowd it is speaking to. Sunday got a little buzzier with stellar performances by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and festival closer, The Pixies, who despite their advancing years seem to be getting fresher. Frank Black easily has one of the greatest screaming voices ever, but maybe a few more hits next time? -- ESP

Riot FestRiot Fest
This muddy mess just keeps getting better. This year's lineup was the strongest yet with something for people of all-ages and tastes. Strong sets by Drive Like Jehu, Jazz Cartier, and Weezer kept the capacity crowd on their feet. Sure legs got tired from stomping through the mud all day, but like they say, "no pain, no gain." -- ESP


Oh, NXNE. While many lauded the festival's ultimate decision to drop Action Bronson from its lineup, festival organizers were initially dismissive of the petition that would eventually cause a frenzy of media attention. Once it was clear that public opinion was firmly against Bronson's Yonge-Dundas appearance, the festival finally pulled the trigger. Not good enough. Above that, it was one of the weakest lineups in years. -- DF

digital dreamsDigital Dreams
Digital Dreams wasn't a complete wash out, but it sure came close. Festival organizers cancelled the first day at the last minute much to the ire of attendees who had already headed down to the wet, muddy grounds. Day two was still a mess, but ticket holders decided to hell with it, and the party went down anyway, ruined shoes and all. -- DF

What did you think of this summers crop of music festivals? Disagree with our picks in the comments.

Contributions by Matt Forsythe, Evan Sue-Ping, and Derek Flack

by Staff via blogTO

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